If you haven’t participated in a group chat, you may be missing one of the most powerful aspects of Twitter. Don’t get me wrong, I love retweeting posts, pictures, and reading blogs too – but the chat is where it’s at!
Hashtags (#), explained:
Hashtags are critical! Anytime you tweet anything, the hashtag will “catalog” or “label” your tweet towards a topic or audience. Use a hashtag to connect with an audience or join a conversation (many of the hashtags are aligned with chats which occur on a regular schedule). When people chat, the hashtag is what filters the conversation from the rest of the tweets on twitter. You “tune in” to a particular topic by using the search feature (the magnifying glass).
Learning by Doing:
The best way to get started is to just give it a try. From what I have seen, every educational chat is friendly and supportive ESPECIALLY if you let people know that you are new to chatting. We are all educators, we love helping and teaching others! You aren’t obligated to participate – you can just watch the chat – feel free to tell people that you are “lurking” – that the term for watching/reading the chat but not heavily participating. Anyone can do this – even if you don’t have a twitter account – just tune in to the hashtag and watch the comments scroll by. Just remember, you have to add the specific hashtag to your tweets, so that everyone else in the chat can “see” them. For any examples in this post, I am going to use #nt2t as the hashtag/label (this is the New Teachers to Twitter hashtag).
What to expect in a chat:
Chat’s start off at the designated time and they are typically moderated by one or two people. Moderators keep the chat moving, pose questions to the group, and foster an engaging and welcoming chat environment. Most chats officially last an hour, but the side conversations usually linger. It never hurts to join a chat a little early and simply post something like, “I am looking forward to my first try at #nt2t”. The moderator and other people who are waiting to chat will probably retweet or favorite if not reply positively to your post. The usual format is that the moderator will ask people to introduce themselves, location, and their role in education. After the introductions/icebreaker, then the moderator will pose a question like this:
Q1: What is your favorite thing about being in education? #nt2t
People will respond with something like…
A1: I love teaching 7th grade kids, they are funny, energetic, and interesting. They keep me young! #NT2T
Notice that the hashtags usually go at the end of the tweet (although it doesn’t matter where it goes, the hashtags are not case sensitive, but it is important to watch out for spaces). Twitter will organize tweets based off of the hashtag and the series of letters/numbers behind it. Once, you hit a space, Twitter will consider it a new word. So, it has to be #nt2t, not # nt2t or #nt 2t. See how the spaces can goof up a hashtag? This can accidentally happen when you are tagging with a phrase: #LeadFromWithin is good, #Lead From Within is bad.
During the conversation, people may reply to your specific tweet but it will all land in the general stream of conversation as long as it has the hashtag. Sometime, a whole separate conversation will break out between just a few participants – which is a great thing about twitter. If the conversation is going too fast, don’t stress. You can scroll up to the most recent question then scroll back through and find comments that you may have missed. The best chats have a brisk pace and people seem to enjoy a chat with many viewpoints and participants (which makes keeping up tough for everyone).
At the end of the chat, people usually express gratitude for the time spent and good conversation. It is nice to thank the moderators and “follow” people with whom you interacted. This is a great way to build your Professional Learning Network (PLN).
Step By Step Instructions:
Step 1: Identify an interesting chat and time to join (use the short list of good chats below). Do this about 10 minutes early to get comfortable. More info on what app to use at the bottom…
Step 2: Do a “search” for the chat, using the specific hashtag. You can scroll for any recent comments or just watch for new posts to appear. If you are on Hootsuite or another app to manage twitter, you can focus on that single column or even save the chat stream. If not, just stay on the “feed” from your search.
Step 3: Post something like, “I am excited to join the chat tonight! #nt2t (Don’t forget the hashtag of the chat; like #nbtchat, #sblchat, or #moedchat)” If something happens and you get lost or go back to your home feed, just do the search for the hashtag again to get back in the conversation.
Step 4: Watch the chat stream and respond as you like (keep using the hashtag or no one will see your post). If you just want to watch, let people know that you are “lurking”. That is totally okay.
Step 5: During the chat (if you are posting using the hashtag), you should expect notifications to pop up when people favorite, retweet, or reply to your post. I often switch between my notifications and the chat feed/stream. Sometimes, people will ask you a specific question without a hashtag and that will only show up in your notifications. You can reply to their question, then go back to the larger group chat. Sometime people may disagree (which is okay), it is part of the conversation – it is rarely an “attack”, just presume a positive intention from others and keep the conversation going.
Step 6: Follow and say goodbye. As people post things, feel free to follow them. They will often follow you back, especially if you are engaged in the conversation. Even if you are lurking, saying goodbye and “signing off” on the chat is a nice thing to do.
Step 7: Don’t stress – if you are slow to respond or having a hard time keeping up, mention it in your tweet. People are very understanding. You will get “faster” as you go. If you forget a hashtag or something, it isn’t a big deal. If you don’t know an abbreviation, just ask. You will learn the vocabulary as you go. Some people add a 1/2 at the end of a post to let people know that it is a two part post. Its okay if you just can’t squeeze your thought into 140 characters.
Here are some chats that I participate in regularly that are friendly and helpful, I’d suggest starting your adventure with one of these chats. I am listing the time and days with the name of a frequent moderator or participant. Feel free to send them a tweet or DM (direct message, like email) and they will be very helpful to respond to you and any questions you may have (I promise). Most of these people participate in many chats – great overall resource!
#sunchat “Sunday Ed Chat” at 8AM CDT good contact: @ShiftParadigm @differNtiated4U (Sometimes, it is a free for all – no formal questions, just free form conversation, usually a large group.)
#nbtchat “No Box Thinking” at 7PM CDT good contact: @BethHill2829 @JennGRoach @WalterReap @JonathanKegler @WHSRowe
#colchat “Culture of Learning” at 9PM EST good contact: @mssackstein @MicheleCorbat
#pblchat “Project/Problem Based Learning” at 8PM EST good contact: @dayankee @biepbl
#sblchat “Standards Based Grading/Learning” at 9PM EST good contact: @drjolly @garnet_hillman -This is a great chat… many “thought leaders” show up! During summer, they chat every other week.
#atplc “All Things PLC” at 9PM EST good contact: @mikemattos65 @edunators
#moedchat “Missouri Educator Chat- don’t have to be working in MO” at 9PM CDT good contact: @TedHiff @DavidGeurin @KeriSkeeters
Not actually a chat… #FF “Follow Friday” – watch for people that you follow to make recommendations about other people to follow. Great way to build your Professional Learning Network (PLN) and find active contributors on Twitter.
#nt2t “New Teachers to Twitter” at 8AM CDT good contact: @shyj @martysnowpaw
#satchat – pretty much runs all morning, the is also a #satchatwc for a later time zone (Sometimes it is a free for all – no formal questions, just free form conversation)
THE BIG LIST:
Here is a web resource (it is a bit overwhelming), which lists EVERY educational chat.
You should follow people who chat (like the ones I’ve listed above), you can see their post in your “Home” feed. When you see them posting something like “A3: Blah blah blah. #___chat”, then you know they are in an active chat. Then, you can just jump in and join – just search the hashtag and see if the chat is still going on. Just type, “Sorry, I am joining late…” and you’re in!
What Apps to use?
I typically use my iPhone for everything. It’s easy, I can do it at sporting events or wherever I want. It is my “go to” device. The best thing about the phone, using the standard Twitter App- is that when you search for a chat and then type a message, it automatically includes the hashtag in your post. Just search for a chat, select “All Tweets” and post away. Its SUPER EASY. I toggle between that and my notifications to chat. Just pull down on the screen to get updated tweets and scroll away. When you are ready to “get crazy”, you can use Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to have multiple feeds going at once. Sometimes there is a cost associated with these Apps and I just haven’t had the need to watch multiple streams at once. Especially, if I am participating in a chat – at first, it helps to really be engaged in a single conversation. I have used Hootsuite because it is free – the interface is different so it is not my favorite (each App has special features and interface). I do like that Hootsuite has a geography based search feature – so you can find people that are physically nearby. I have used the twitter website on my computer, but it seems clunky – I have to manually type in the chat hashtags and it seems to take longer to refresh with updated posts.
Tweet to me if you have any questions or if you are about to join a chat and you want a wingman! You can send me direct messages or tweet “at” me without the chat hashtag and I can help coach you. If you are a face to face (F2F) or real life (RL) friend, you can call me and I can walk you through it while you try it out. No fellow tweet-er will ridicule you – everyone wants to share the joy of chatting!
Remember, there are hundreds of posts and web pages about how to tweet/chat. Feel free to look around and found what works for you! See the “anatomy of a Tweet” below, for some additional help.